• Every minute of every day users post 49,380 photos on Instagram.

  • Every minute of every day 2,083,333 Snaps are shared on Snapchat.

  • Every minute of every day users send 473,400 Tweets.

It’s no secret that we, as a society, are overwhelmed by content. The sheer amount of information and data coming at us is incredible. The sixth edition of Domo’s “Data Never Sleeps” study reports over 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every single day, and that by 2020, it’s estimated that 1.7MB of data will be created every second for every person on earth.

The world has, for a large part, gone digital and it is in this digital space that businesses need to reach their users — consumers, shoppers, listeners, etc. For most businesses, this means establishing a presence on social media channels, pushing out content, and lots of it, and hoping that those users will find their way to them through some mixture of paid advertising, smart hashtags, and sheer force of will.

There are now more than 25 million business accounts on Instagram alone. So, outside of paid advertising, how does a small business get noticed amongst all this other content? How do you make yourself heard above the noise?

We tell good stories. Stories that people want to consume. That they want to share.

A good story has to hook your audience — it might be a gorgeous photo shot on location that shows your product in an aspirational way, it might be a video of your employees at your company’s national volunteer day, it might be a repackaged testimonial from a happy client. There are a million creative ways to tell a good story on social media. The through line is this: on social media, a good brand story sits at the intersection of your brand message and a larger cultural relevance. Make sure it makes sense for your brand and for your followers.

Here are four actionable steps brands and businesses can take to help craft and source smart stories for your digital channels.

Do your research. While big companies have deep pockets for social listening and brand research, a small business can still keep its finger on the pulse of what its audience cares about. Spending some time looking at what your followers and others in your area are sharing, posting, and commenting on — no matter which social channel you are on — will help you craft content that will resonate with the people you want to reach.

Don’t make it all about you. It’s easy to post the self-promotional stuff — product launches and sales and all those things that you know drive your bottom line. But social channels need to still be a bit of a two-way dialogue with your users. They need to feel like they play a part in your story. Ask yourself, what would my brand say if we weren’t only talking about ourselves but we were speak with our audience? What memes would we share? Think about the tone and voice of your brand and craft copy and visuals that match, and that speak to the people you want to engage with.

Listen to your audience. Your followers will let you know when they don’t like something. They won’t always do it with words. Make some time to review the follower reaction to your social media content. What are people liking, sharing, and commenting on? Make more content like this. Are there posts that you think are amazing but just don’t seem to be making traction with your followers? That’s OK — move on and create something that will, using what you learned from the content that is resonating.

Be prepared, but be nimble. Plan your social media content calendar as tightly as you can — align the content with your retail calendar, events, national and social media/hashtag holidays, and anything else you can get ahead of. But also know that in our current culture — with our 24-hour news cycle and those 2.5 quintillion bytes of data being created — things are bound to shift. You need to allow yourself the flexibility to move content around, and when it makes sense (for your brand and your own time) to post content that is of-the moment.

Four steps to better content. Four steps to better stories. Four steps to better connecting with users. Or as I like to call them … people.